It has been exactly a year since a horrifying accident took place in North Luzon Express Way that took the lives of three people and left twenty others injured. It was an ordinary Saturday, like an ordinary September day, rainy and cold. I remember that I was on a hurry to go home in Pampanga that day because I do not want to spend a rainy day in Manila. I had enough of being stranded every rain pours it was difficult more than you can think of.
I was still a graduating student back then, finishing my degree in Economics at University of Santo Tomas. I have a love-hate relationship with my class schedule, there were times that it’s convenient, but most of the time I hate it. Imagine a Saturday class left spared for one subject? I abhorred that situation, but then later on I grew to like it since my professor was worth our Saturdays.
Then came another Saturday, September 17, 2011, a date that I will forever remember; we were dismissed early from class. My bf and I, who also is my classmate, skipped lunch because I kept insisting that I wanted to arrive home early. So he drove me to the bus station in Cubao minutes later. I usually board a Genesis bus, but then the bus that I chose wasn’t filled yet; in fact there were less than ten passengers. I would have to wait at least half of the seats to be occupied and it would take another thirty minutes of waiting before the bus would set off.
There came this Saulog bus which was already on the go, without hesitation I decided to transfer from my current bus to Saulog, after all I cannot wait any longer, thirty minutes is too long for me. A decision I will forever regret doing. There were only few people inside the bus, and I like it that way. I feel more comfortable when there are less people. I counted five seats away from the driver’s seat and sat beside this lady on her forties or fifties, who was then asking the conductor to drop her off at Dinalupihan. She said it was her first time to board a bus going North so she have no idea where Dinalupihan is, her relatives will have to pick her up from there.
We just approached the NLEX exit when the movie in the bus started playing, I will never forget the title of the movie it was “Reaper”, it was my habit to watch movies that is played inside the bus (provided that I find the film interesting), but this one is not, it’s so boring. It was all blah blah and absurd so I decided to just take a nap. Little did I know that the movie’s title was probably a sign that something will happen. Imagine the word “Reaper” it still gives me the chills whenever I recall that title.
It was a rainy afternoon, an ordinary rainy day of September. A bus was speeding really fast along the streets of North Luzon Express way, while I was on my sleep. I woke up due to the screaming of my fellow passengers, apparently we were running in zig zag, fast, really fast and about to collide with a trailer truck. God knows how strong the force was the moment we collided on a trailer truck. I was a hard collision, I hit my head on the back handle of the seat in front of me, it did not end there; seconds later the bus started to roll, while all of us screaming and scared, we were overturned. I can vividly remember the pain on my head due to another impact, this time my head hit on the ceiling of the bus. The rolling finally stopped. I opened my eyes and crawled my way out of the nearest broken window. I stared at the bus and I cannot believe what my eyes saw. The roof of the bus was on the ground, literally turn turtle. The bus landed on the side of the highway, a downward sloping canal with a wall barrier that helped the turning to end. I was covered with mud, my hair smelling gasoline and my knees were bleeding. First thing I did was to wave at running cars, hoping someone would notice and stop and call for help. Thankfully there was a kind hearted couple who stopped by and told me they called for help.
I was crying, still haven’t completely got my composure, as I stared my fellow passengers coming out of the bus one by one, some sustained head injuries, one was yelling out of pain seemingly from bone dislocation on her hips. There were people who were still trapped inside the bus, one passenger was crying and screaming, it was a guy, holding to the arm of his fellow seatmate who was still trapped inside. It was her wife. Imagine the agony, seeing your wife live then moments later die next to you in a very tragic way. Rescue came minutes later; they took the seriously wounded survivors first. I insisted to stay, my phone was on my bag and it was still inside the bus. I do not know who or where to call, I do not memorize the number of my father or anyone in my family not even my boyfriend’s number. No one in my family knew what mishap I have been thru. (video and news report here)
There was this truck containing members of the military who volunteered to help, they tried pushing the bus but it was no use, it would require a crane to uplift the bus. There was this military guy who approached me and gave his scarf so I can protect myself from the rain. I kept the scarf and it is still with me until now. There came another rescue, now the NLEX constable and the rescuers were insisting that I should go and have myself checked for serious injuries. I held no choice but to go, but before going another passenger approached me, he said he was a pastor, told me that it’s going to be okay, everything will be fine and God will not abandon us.
We ended up on a Hospital in Guiguinto Bulacan, I was probably the luckiest, I was the first one who got out of the bus and sustained minor injuries on my head and knees. My family came to know what happened through the help of a concerned person. He had friends who are near our address which he instructed to find our house and tell to anyone who’s at home of what I have been through. An hour passed by and finally I saw my father and my brother, I finally felt safe and calm. Dad asked me what happened, so I narrated what I saw. It was a long long day… My last memory of the hospital was when I was about to left; there came three bodies being alight from the ambulance. Those were my fellow passengers who were trapped inside the bus, unfortunately they did not make it. God knows how miserable I felt when I saw them.
We were summoned at the police station for some investigations and testimonies. I lost my phone during the accident, my laptop was broken (until now Saulog haven’t paid for it), and so are my glasses. Those were materials things that were forever lost yet replaceable, but what I have been through will forever stay in my head. From that day forward boarding a bus was never easy, I have got no choice but to do it. It is like a self-inflicted torture, a traumatic experience that never will be exhausted. From that day on I cannot sleep again every time I travel. I hated U-turns because it makes me recall the turning motion that I experienced during the accidents. There were times that I would recall what happened and my head would hurt, and I would feel unsecure. Every time I would board a bus I would do a quick prayer “Lord kayo na po bahala sa akin, kung ano man pong mangyari sa akin ngayon, kayo na po ang bahala sa mga taong mahal ko”.
Three hundred sixty five days later, all of my fears have not subsided fully.
Three of my fellow passengers died. Remember the old lady I sat with during that time? She was one of them. One was a lady of my age from Mexico, Pampanga she was the companion of the pastor. She have a loving and kind parents, I was able to talk to them for a while and they told me that maybe it was really her time to go and that she had already fulfilled her mission. The last one was the wife of the other passenger.
Days before the accident happened, I am on a self-debate about the existence of God. In short, I was questioning His existence. There are a lot of things that I do not understand, but that’s how we usually are; we criticize what we do not understand. After the accident I never questioned Him, he gave me answers and another chance to live, this time for His glory. I am not the religious type of person; I guess most of us are. My relationship with God was never measured by attendance during Sunday mass, but it was personal, solemn and intimate. I have never felt that there was something phenomenal, invisible, yet animated. I have learned to live a life worth living and will continue to do so.
If you are a driver please do not over speed, there are speed limits and they are there for a reason. If you have passengers with you always remember that those people entrusts their lives on your driving, hence you should be extra careful. If it is raining and you have nothing important to go to just stay at home and do something worth the time rather than travelling. Roads are extra slippery when wet. Always pray. Prayer helps one to be calm and feel protected, praying had help me get through a bus ride, it’s effective I swear. Lastly, live a life worth living, ask yourself; if you are about to leave this life, have you lived enough to call it worthy? Have you lived a life worth sharing to God that you did well and have not wasted it? Can you face God with head held high that you are happy with what you have accomplished and how you have helped others to be better? No? Now go and start living! We will never know how long can we stay or what will happen next…